Back to Nature (Plague, Day 82, May 26, 2020)

What do people do when traditional weekend activities are still closed and after being shut up in little apartments and home offices for weeks? They head to the hills.

Early Sunday morning, we packed up the kids and drove about 40 minutes to a large local park, Bear Mountain. There are nice hiking trails there, lakes to kayak, and lots of picnic benches and grill spots.

Those tables are a favorite of large extended families from New York City — working class folks without access to second homes on Long Island. On a good day, those areas are packed. This weekend, we got stuck in a hour long traffic jam trying to get there and were unable to ever leave the car. There were no parking spaces.

So, we drove over the Bear Mountain bridge to other side of the Hudson River, and found a less well known hiking trail — Castle Rock Park. With views of West Point, this trail was perfect.

We just booked a shore house in North Carolina for a week in June. It’s down the block from my in-laws, so we can check in on them, too. Their beach is pretty quiet even in the summer, so we’re not worried about social distancing at all. We won’t been able to do the usual things that help break up the time at the beach, like mini-golf and restaurants with crab cakes, so we’ll probably do more outdoor activities, like kayaking and biking.

Sure, there are some pockets of people partying in close quarters in a pool in the Ozarks, but most are finding places outside their homes to enjoy life, while keeping to themselves. My twitterfeed is full of outrage at these people and all sorts of bad behavior this morning.

I’m tired of outrage at the moment. We’re just doing our own thing here in Apt. 11D. Retreating into the woods. Plugging away at articles and jobs. Watching the little tomato plants grow. Watching the stray momma cat who lives by our stream take her babies out for longer walks from her nest.

I haven’t spent this much time outside — away from computer, gyms, restaurants, museums, and stores — since my babies were little and needed daily trips to the playground. It’s lowering my blood pressure and putting life in perspective.

I’m too chilled out to let myself get upset by the latest tweet from Trump or a viral video of a dog walker in Central Park. I’m too chilled out to overthink my latest article – wrote it, sent it out, no drama. I’m too chilled out to bother myself with people who are wrong on the Internet. My kids are not getting the education that they deserve and face an uncertain economic future; this does bother me, but it’s a low key buzz of stress, not a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night meltdown.

We are reshaping our lives right now in many ways. One change is that I’m finding that I don’t give a flying fuck about things that I thought were super important just three months ago. Right now, finding a clear field to frolic with my nearly grown children is all that matters.

22 thoughts on “Back to Nature (Plague, Day 82, May 26, 2020)

  1. You all had some great weather this weekend. Love your pics. My sister in Sloatsburg went up to the farm (family friends’ farm) for a couple of days and I was so jealous.
    Grades were due here at 12 noon, so right now I am contemplating my next few months…. But in half an hour we have a big faculty meeting with provost to discuss plans for training in remote learning to prep for Fall semester.


  2. Not my current state because I still have plenty of outrage and anger. What I am working on is to find what little I can do and not trying to fix things on the internet (which I really believe has little value other than making my mind run in circles). Right now, it is very little, supporting flower farmers by buying lots of flowers (which is not an entirely altruistic endeavor, since I love the flowers) and trying to support artists.

    I’m also hoping for the best, that we will see continuing decreases in deaths, that the fatigue leading to opening up won’t lead us into exponential growth again, that we will find a new normal that is sustainable.


    1. I have become something of a conspiracy theorist. Those bastids at 55 Savushkina Street are stoking our outrage and driving wedges between us. Like the diamond cutters of Antwerp, they find the tiniest line of weakness and drive in a wedge. “I’m tired of outrage at the moment. We’re just doing our own thing here in Apt. 11D. Retreating into the woods. Plugging away at articles and jobs. Watching the little tomato plants grow.” Me, I’m tired of outrage, too. We have the Orange Man Bad side and the We Hates The Swells sides, and the country is coming apart. Worse than I’ve ever seen it, and I blame the Savushkinians!
      I ran out of named tomato seeds – have some plants – and on a whim I planted some of the half-sprouted seeds of a tomato which had gone past its prime on the kitchen counter. They are now 2 1/2 inches high and I’m going to plant them out. Mutt tomatoes! I’m getting a remarkable amount of happy contemplating them. The basil will be sturdy enough to raid for pesto in about a week.


      1. I find myself adapting to the other people around me. When they are panicked, I find myself being much more vigilant about threats. I think this holds true for online experience, as well as “real life.” (There has to be a word for that,other than “real life.”)

        I notice that any number of people are wearing their masks wrong. I’m not supposed to see your nose.

        I have read and heard that online algorithms tend to feed a viewer more of what they react to–so you start with, say, whittling, and end up with axe murderers. (An example I made up.) Sure, there is meddling by other parties, but I wouldn’t discount the effect of AI algorithms.

        I’m watching a couple of parsley plants in the garden, that somehow survived the winter. Soon I may have enough to make taboule, which will help to cut down some of our mint, which is way too hardy.

        Anyone know any recipes to use up large quantities of fresh mint?


      2. Cranberry said:

        “I have read and heard that online algorithms tend to feed a viewer more of what they react to–so you start with, say, whittling, and end up with axe murderers.”


        A couple years ago, our youngest was really into unboxing videos and similar quality youtube fare, and it was definitely true that the more of that you watch, the more junky content they offer you.

        “Anyone know any recipes to use up large quantities of fresh mint?”

        This isn’t exactly large quantities, but two things come to mind:

        –garnishing/flavoring beverages (ice tea, etc.)
        –use as a substitute for Thai basil in recipes (a recipe book I have recommends doing this)

        My 9th/10th grader is a container/raised bed gardener and while he’s had some squirrel issues this season, the chives I bought him have survived. We’re enjoying those on potatoes and whatever.


  3. Hmh, looking at the tweets in your side bar and wondering about the stat described, that the percent of college students taking online classes has increased from about 6% to 42% from 2000-2016. That sounds huge, but I don’t understand how the statistic gets unpacked. It is the percent of students, so I presume it includes anyone who took even one class (during what period of time?).

    I’ve never liked online education as a replacement for education (at any level). It offends my sensibilities of what education should be, especially in any form where it promises to be cheaper. But, I understand that many people are looking for a different form of education than I am (for myself, or my kids) and want to know the landscape from other points of view.

    One thing I note about the elite schools is that they are clearly a social club as well as a place for delivering education, both when a student attends, but also for the rest of their lives. Say, for example, the school my kiddo attends is providing a summer program that leans heavily on the alumni network (which includes some famous people). It is an example of privilege amplified.


  4. “I haven’t spent this much time outside — away from computer, gyms, restaurants, museums, and stores — since my babies were little and needed daily trips to the playground. It’s lowering my blood pressure and putting life in perspective.”

    I’m feeling the same way, although it’s mostly gardening helping me feel so grounded. I know in the fall when the days are getting shorter and we’re dealing with longer unemployment on my part I’ll feel differently (although I’m upgrading my skills & starting a certificate program in a couple of weeks!) I do think we’ll come out of this with slightly different priorities as a family.


  5. We had a huge downpour/thunderstorm over the weekend. That was a drag, but has been followed by exquisite weather. We’re going to have lows in the 60s all week. This is really nice, as it had been getting too hot for the 9th/10th grader to enjoy tennis, even after sundown.


  6. I’m feeling that way a lot too, but in my case, I’m not sure it’s an entirely good thing. Before COVID, I did a lot of community-related work every week and spent a lot of time with people who are very different from me. Since COVID, I’ve really only seen my family. We’ve focused inwardly – really, only on ourselves. I feel like we now live in a bubble, and it’s a bubble in which I don’t ever come into direct personal contact with the problems of the world (poverty, etc.) beyond what we are facing in our own family. We live by a lake and near lots of parks and hiking, so we are also spending a lot of time outside. In many ways, it’s a lot easier and a lot less stressful than our lives before.

    I went and saw my “Little” for the first time in over 9 weeks this weekend. (I wore a mask and social distanced) Who knows when I’ll be able to spend meaningful time with her again? I worry that the longer I stay in my bubble, the less I’ll worry about the rest of the world…


    1. One of the things that has happened around here is a sort of mini-renaissance of neighborhood life.

      Normally, the kids would be gone to various places in the evening, but nowadays, everybody’s home in the evening, walking around, biking around, etc.

      I was delivering some books to neighbors this evening. They live on the cul de sac behind us and it was full of elementary-aged kids running around and biking.

      I’m entertaining the idea of taking the 1st/2nd grader over for some (distanced) fun–maybe some biking in the cul de sac? I think she’d like it.


  7. Due to the foreshortening effect of telephoto lenses, it’s very hard to judge from a photograph how far apart people are. So outrage based on photographs is generally a poor idea. (There might be a broader spiritual comment to make, but I’m focusing purely on the mundane and material.)


    1. Yeah, tele lenses can do interesting things, like make the moon look huge and close. But can’t think of a way to manipulate the lake of the ozarks swimming pool shot. Or pence dining at a diner, unmasked and sitting less than 6 feet from de santis and the servers.


  8. I just learned a few new things today:

    1. Our private school in Central Texas is going to have the first day of school in literally the first week of August. They are building in a lot of holidays into the new schedule, but are also anticipating closures.
    2. School is requiring masks for people doing uniform and book drop-offs this week.
    3. We also just started summer therapy for our youngest at a new therapy center this week. The new therapy center is doing a carpool drop-off and pick up to minimize people in the building. As I suspected, nobody at the therapy center seems to wear a mask (it’s probably therapeutically inadvisable), but therapists will be doing temperature checks before getting kids out of cars. They are going to be focusing on return to school, as that will be an issue for so many young clients.


  9. On trend with the NC house rental:

    You got me thinking about whether we could do this, with all the cancelled activities at home. I think I’d want to do longer than a week if I were doing because it will require prep that I’m not used to, to relocate, and drive, and be prepared to isolate. I think our limit will be the older’s internship, which is remote, but which I do not think she would want to start in a location she didn’t know. But a house rental, properly cleaned, to which we drive might be something I’d be comfortable with.


  10. I hate the shutdown. To take my mind off it, I am spending more time on my yard. The flowers are mostly on autopilot, just a few annuals to plant, but weeding always needs doing. My yard now blooms from late February (circuses) through November (dahlias). Still planting the vegetable garden, my peppers aren’t ready to be outside, but the rest are in.


  11. Our newest school updates are the following:

    –graduation is planned to be held at the end of June in the late evening in the evening on a football field
    –prom is still up in the air, awaiting the next message from the governor.

    My husband is thrilled about the graduation plans.


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